While this year's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest threatened to be overshadowed by Takeru Kobayashi's arrest after the event, two people who enjoyed the display for its pure, human endurance-testing, Coney Island-exciting, 100% beef self were Michael Bisberg and Laura Silver. The pair won VIP passes to the contest from us and shared their photographs and observations from the heart of the action.

Laura wrote, "As contestants dunked, shoveled, smooshed, and generally got hot dogs all over their faces, gagging noises abounded," while Michael noticed how Major League Eating Chairman George Shea "strode the stage and screamed evangelically," yeling "TODAY WE WILL TRANSCEND!" Read about their experiences—complete with vuvuzelas, the " after the jump—and stayed tuned to Gothamist through Twitter and our newsletter for other fun opportunities like this.

From Laura Silver:

Before the competition, beefy guys in pink shirts passed out blow-up Pepto Bismol clap sticks colored like hot dogs dunked in mustard. The crowd beat their Pepto-sticks and the renegade vuvuzela players added to the ... well, we'll just say merriment.

When Kobayashi showed up amid the throng, there were boos as well as shouts of "Kob-y! Kob-y!" He seemed to be avoiding attention, jumping down from his perch when he saw photographers turning towards him.

Once the judges were sworn in (ending with a hearty, "AMEN") and the contestants introduced, the eating began -- a full ten seconds after the countdown clock reached zero.

As contestants dunked, shoveled, smooshed, and generally got hot dogs all over their faces, gagging noises abounded. It was unclear if these came from the stage or the spectators.

Pat Bertoletti of the melting mohawk was particularly spectacular to watch. His dunking liquid of choice: red gatorade (or something that looked just like it). He ignored the crowd before the competition started, listening to his ipod instead. He didn't even hear his
girlfriend screaming at him from the VIP section to throw her some water. (Or, who knows, maybe he enjoys keeping her dehydrated.)

Joey Chestnut, who did some impressive jaw stretches beforehand, looked pretty sweaty and nauseated the entire contest. He did crack a nice smile once 54 hot dogs were under his belt and the championship was safely his again.

The crowd was mainly for Joey, with just a couple "We <3 Sonya" posters towards the back. (Rooting for the one you know is going to win? Must have been a lot of Yankees fans in attendance.)

It may have been the display of "human spirit" George Shea mentioned, but, suitable to the day, it was definitely a display of Independence (from normal gastronomical common sense, that is.) No records were broken, but those eaters sure love America. There was a whole mess of patriotism up on that stage.

From Michael Bisberg:

George Shea really showed us something today. Resplendent as usual in his signature straw Nathan's topper and incredibly sweat-free shirt and tie, George was all ballyhoo; a possessed, barking throwback to the Coney Island of a century past. Bluster, mad shouts, breathless superlatives, and impassioned appeals to the crowd for confirmation that we are ("ARE WE NOT?!") citizens of the greatest nation on this spinning planet, and we can eat as many damn hot dogs as it takes to be the best, because that is-- dare I say it-- OUR DESTINY. And he did it all without a competition to speak of. There really wasn't any doubt that Chestnut would rule the day-- this was basically another solo world record attempt for him-- but then, there was George, fists and pointed fingers a-flailing, spinning it to gold, and bringing the wilting crowd back up onto its tip-toes for another year...

Not long before the show began, Mr. Shea strode the stage and screamed evangelically. "TODAY WE WILL TRANSCEND!"

I chuckled.

I was wrong.

Today we, the gathered thousands who braved the summer heat, beheld a classic carnival. Giant anthropamorphic hot dogs capering back and forth! A three and-a-half-foot-tall Uncle Sam! Magicians! Martial artists! The "Revolution of the Dance" guy! FREAKING T-SHIRT CANNONS! He had me. I was transported. I was a child with a fancy camera. I wished it never to end. And then the big men (and tiny woman) ate mountains of weiners! Oh, what a spectacle! What a spectacle! Wowie!

We could not have asked for more. I didn't miss any Tsunami. I witness feats of strength, and endurance, and pageantry, and magic, and I really didn't see it coming. I doubt most did. We were the guests of a real showman today.